Sunday, July 21, 2013

Harvest Weekend

It was a weekend of harvesting alliums! For my dinner Saturday night, I ending up pulling my first two "Camelot" shallots and my first "Candy" sweet onion. The "Camelot" shallots certainly do have a beautiful red/purple skin. 

Today I trimmed and cleaned the "Russian Red" garlic that had been drying on the rack in the shop. Boy these are big bulbs! I planted 15 cloves back on November 3rd and today I harvested 16 bulbs. The total "Red Russian" harvest came in at 6 lbs. 12.32 oz. ! The largest bulb was 8.28 oz and the smallest was still 5.44 oz. The average bulbs size was 6.77 oz. As I did last year, I will save the largest bulb for my cloves to plant this Fall. "Russian Red" has been described as having a very unique, complex flavor so I am excited to start using it in the kitchen.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Hand Pollination

The female blossoms on the Winter Squash are starting to open. In some years, when the first few female blooms open, there aren't any male blooms open at the same time. While this happily isn't the case this year, I am still not seeing many pollinators around. So I have resorted to hand pollination. After arriving home from work the last two nights, I have been cutting off some male blooms and using them to hand pollinate the open female blooms. This task would ideally be done by noon-time, when the pollen is fresh and plentiful. But I can only do it on weekdays after I get home. I will know within just a few short days if this was successful. If they weren't pollinated, the immature fruit will quickly turn yellow and fall off. But if I was a good stand-in for the bees, the fruit will soon swell and start to grow. Above, a "Butternut" squash and below, a "Guatemalan Blue Banana".

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Twins

It had been a while since I had seen our mother doe and her two fawns. As I was walking down to the dahlia garden Monday evening, I stumbled upon them. They were busy grazing in our first meadow, close to the creek. This is a fairly damp and shady spot, so the grass is still a bit green. The twins are growing but I was pleased to see that they still have their spots.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Visitors to the Ali Baba

We have three bird baths around our house, as well as two fountains. The birds enjoy using the fountains every bit as much as the bird baths. This little "ali baba" fountain is on our back patio. All day long the finches, and an occasional jay, perch on the fountain to drink. Sometimes they jump in the middle for a refreshing bath.

After the sun goes behind our hill, I enjoy sitting out in the evenings and watching all of the action at the fountain.

Must of the time its one of our regular feathered friends stopping for a drink. But once in a while, a thirsty  visitor of another kind enjoys the fountain too!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The First Dahlia Blooms - Sort of!

Last year I bought a tuber of "Stillwater Plum", a Mignon Single Dahlia. I planted it in my pretty burgundy pot and it did quite well its first year. I didn't remove it from the pot last Winter and was very pleased to see it come back strongly this Spring. It has doubled in size and today the first two blooms have opened. It is such a vibrant shade of purple and has a glowing red ring at the base of the petals. I am not a huge fan of Mignon Single dahlias but I certainly will keep growing this variety.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Blackberries

All over the property, the blackberries are growing like mad. The canes seem to reach out into the road overnight. After taking a walk, I noticed that we currently have berries in all of the various stages. In the deepest shade, there are still clusters of lovely pink flowers.

Out in more direct sun, the petals have dropped and the green berries are growing. Each year I am always able to pick the first ripe berries down on our road, right were it crosses the creek. Already, some clumps in this area have their first red berries.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Garlic Harvest #1

This afternoon I harvested the first garlic. I  noticed that most of the leaves on the "Russian Red" garlic had turned completely brown. I read last year that you should harvest when 1/2 of the leaves have turned brown. Well, I am way past that point with this variety! You will also notice that I never got around to cutting off the garlic scapes. Oh, well. Such is the theme of this year - running a bit late!

I planted this garlic on November 3rd. It was garlic that I had brought back in my suitcase from Maine and had the biggest cloves that I had ever seen of any variety. Upon my initial digging, I discovered that those big cloves made some very large bulbs. And the roots on the bulbs were well over 5" long. They were some very impressive plants.

I had planted 15 cloves back in November and all of the cloves produced a nice plant. One clove did split in two and produced two connected cloves, so I ended up harvesting 16 bulbs today. I gave each bulb a gentle cleaning with my glove and then brought them into the shop to dry. I made a temporary drying rack and laid out each plant. In a few weeks I will cut off the stalks and peal off one layer of skin. Then I will weigh each bulb and see what the "Russian Red" harvest for 2013 totaled.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Rabbit Damage


Today, when I was down in the big garden, I discovered yet another dahlia plant that had been eaten by the rabbits. I am now up to 5 plants that have been ruined by the bunnies this year; one "Red Velvet", one "Lismoore Peggy", one "Stillwater David" and both "Hilltop St. Charles". All of the eaten plants have one thing in common - they are all planted in the front row or the back row of the garden. Thus, they are all next to the lawn. I am so glad that 80% of my dahlias are now tall enough that the rabbits won't be able to do more then chew off a lower leaf. I guess that's another reason I planted 233 dahlias - I do have a few to spare. But it does hurt when the bunny eats both of one variety!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Squash Blossoms

When I was watering in the kitchen garden tonight, I noticed the first few open squash blossoms. Both the "Guatemalan Blue Banana" plant, pictured above, and the "Delicata" pictured blow, have open male flowers today. I have always particularly admired the pretty star-shaped "Delicata" blooms.

It will be a while before I start getting any fruit set. As I studied the vines tonight, I found tiny, immature squash on both the "Butternut" squash, below, and on the "Guatemalan Blue Banana" squash, above. It will be a few weeks before the female flowers on the vines bloom. But until then, the open male flowers will start to attract bees to the area. Then, when the female flowers finally do open, there should be a good population of pollinators available.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

And More Germination

Tonight when I went down to the big garden, I found that two of my four "Mini Jack" pumpkins have popped up. And over in the sunflower rows, I would say that 75% of the "Bright Bandolier" sunflowers have germinated. Four days from planting to results - I like it!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Look Who's Up

Tonight, when I went down to the big garden to water, I discovered that my "Persian Carpet" zinnias have started to germinate! It has only been three days since I planted them. That's what the combination of water and heat will do for you!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

False Solomon's Seal

Down in the big garden, growing in the shade of a huge tree, I have a nice group of False Solomon's Seal "Maianthenum Racemosum" plants. In late Spring the plants are crowned by a plum of showy,white flowers. As the flower fades, they are replaced by berries. The shiny green berries are just beginning to turn red now. I don't know if the wildlife will leave any on the plant long enough for me to witness a solid red berry.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Good Bugs

As I have been busy planting and tending to my dahlias the last few weeks, I have continued to see a strong presence of lady bugs. Nothing pleases me more. I choose to garden 100% organically, both in my vegetable garden and in my flower garden. Because of this, I have both "good" bugs and a few "bad" bugs. But I know that the good bugs will ultimately keep the bad bugs in check. Since I am not using any chemicals that will harm them, my ladybugs help keep the aphid population in check. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Final Touches & Hacking Out The Path

Today was the final day of the wonderful 4-day 4th of July long weekend. After sleeping in, I spent a very busy 3 hours down at the big garden. We first mowed all around the garden inside and out. Then I took a pair of clippers and attacked all of the stray blackberry vines that were poking through the fencing. After that we picked up all of the miscellaneous stuff that we had brought down to assist with the planting - the wheel barrow, 1-gallon pots, shovels, rakes etc.

The far end of the garden, the blue entrance gate in the distance.

Then we off-loaded my purple garden bench and put it into place. Now Summer has officially begun!

Then it was time to attack the secret path. It hadn't been mowed yet this year. It was a mess. I first had to fight my through a tangle of blackberry vines before I could even think about mowing. I would trim the blackberry for a few feet and then mow for a few feet. Slowly I worked my way down the path to the bridge.The deer are going to be really happy. And speaking of deer, look at the nice deer hoof print I found next to my newly planted dahlias up at the house. It seems that they were given a once-over sometime last night. Thankfully, the deer remembered that it didn't like dahlias and left them all alone.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Big Garden - A Finish

I started my day at the Lane County Farmer's Market. I realized that I hadn't been there since Memorial Day Weekend. I arrived without any change. I decided if a free spot was open than I was meant to stay. If they were all full I would head home. The fates were on my side. I got stopped at a red light right before the free parking blocks begin. As I waited the car closest to me on that block backed up and pulled away! So very much has changed at the Market in the last five weeks. The early tomatoes are now for sale as well as the first peppers. But I stopped in my tracks when I saw this pile of corn. Only two stands had corn, and this one had much more than the other. It was a sweet bi-color and the Farmer promised that it would be delicious. I picked up two ears and headed home. We had them for dinner and I can report that he wasn't lying. It was a taste of Summer in every mouthful!

After returning from the Farmer's Market, I headed down to the big garden. While all of my dahlias are now in the ground, I still hadn't planted any annual cut flowers. So I laid out six rows. Two I planted with Zinnia "Persian Carpet". I have grown this variety for many years and just love it. Then, since the deer have wreaked havoc on my first two attempts at sunflowers up at the house, I planted three rows of the sunflower "Bright Bandolier".

For my last row I brought down the first tray that I seeded back in May. These poor marigolds have been stuck in six packs for much too long.

By this time they should be nice, stocky 4" plants. Instead they are still 1" starts, but they are alive. So, I figured nothing ventured, nothing gained. Into a row they went. If they thrive terrific, if not that's alright. I ended up with 9 little "Frances' Choice" and 12 small "Red Metamorph" in the row. To finish up the garden I thought it would be fun to plant a few decorative pumpkins. The garden doesn't get enough sun anymore to grow the big pumpkin but I think the little ones might do alright. So I made two hills and planted two seeds in each hill of the pumpkin "Mini Jack". Now the garden is complete!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Working On The Garden To-do List

Now that the dahlia garden is all planted, I can turn my focus to all the other things that have piled up on my ever-growing "to-do" list. I started by completely weeding the big flowerbed. Then I raked it smooth. I had a few "odds & ends" dahlias that were left over after my big planting. I couldn't throw them away so I planted them in this space. It doesn't get a ton of sun here but they should still do alright. If the deer decide to eat them, that will be ok. If not, we will have some nice late Summer color and I will have a bonus of some big sized tubers.

Then I moved back to the kitchen garden. As you can see, I needed to corral my tomato plants and add the second tier to their cages about 10 days ago! You can't tell were one plants stops and the next one starts. So, I began grabbing wayward shoots and trying to stuff them all in the next level of cage. It was much harder than it would have been if I had done it weeks ago. 

After a lot of struggling, and getting coated in the strong stench of tomato, the top tiers were on and the tomatoes look a little more orderly. I was able to get all of the shoots back into the cages but two. These I will grab with tie-wrap and they can grow just outside of the cage.

As I was wrestling with each plant, I was excited to discover that three of the four plants have set fruit. Here are three little "Early Cascade".

A nice cluster of "Sweet Million".

And a small, chubby "Black Krim".

I also discovered my first open "Nicola" potato blossom. The plants were covered with clusters of buds a week ago. But during our 5 day heat wave, most of the unopened blossoms just dropped off. I don't think that this will affect potato production, but I am not sure.

I also discovered today that my morning glory plants have started to bloom. I am quite surprised to find that at this point, the majority of blooms at purple. Last year almost all of the blooms were "Mixed Color" pink. I did add two "Feringa" plants last year that had purple blooms. Since all of this year's plants are volunteers, I have no way of knowing exactly what variety they are - "Mixed Color" - which is suppose to be pink, purple & white or "Feringa" deep purple and white. Either way they are cheery and it won't be long before the whole trellis is smothered with color.